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Cigar Review: Avo Heritage Short Robusto

20 Apr 2015

With Avo getting an update—new packaging, lower prices, eliminations—current retailer inventory is a prime candidate for the discount table. At my local shop, the remaining on-hand stock is marked 40 percent off.

Avo Short RobustoAs an Avo fan, I couldn’t resist the bargain. I picked up a 20-count box of the Short Robustos size with a price tag coming in under $4 per cigar. I don’t think I’d ever smoked this little vitola—weighing in at only 4 inches long with a ring gauge of 56—but I’ve enjoyed other Heritage sizes over the years.

The Heritage extension was introduced in 2010 to give Avo a competitor in what was then an emerging market for stronger cigars. It features an oily, brown, sun-grown Ecuadorian wrapper over a Dominican binder and Dominican and Peruvian filler.

For a while, Heritage was hot, helped by its somewhat lower price tag among Avo offerings. Our review of the Robusto not long after it hit the shelves earned a four and a half-stogie rating.

I don’t know how old this box is, but the cellophane on the individual cigars is yellowed considerably, and I’d guess it has been on the shelf for a year or more.

A noticeable pre-light trait is a fairly loose draw, always a concern with a small smoke for fear of overheating the tobacco. But after lighting, there wasn’t a problem; the draw was fine. Other technical aspects like smoke production, burn, and the ash were excellent.

The Heritage is a complex cigar, even in this small package. Beginning with cedar and a hint of the hay and grass common to many Davidoff productions, there’s quickly quite a bit of spice. Along the way, I also picked up cocoa, coffee, and leather, all engaging and harmonious.

The Heritage Short Robusto could be enjoyed any time of the day. It pairs perfectly with a cup of coffee for a morning smoke, even if it’s a bit stronger than many might normally consider at that time of day. If you’re looking for a break in the afternoon, it is an ideal size. Similarly, it’s a cigar to appreciate as a nightcap.

With its good flavors, versatility, and strong performance, I highly recommend the Heritage Short Robusto and concur with the earlier rating given to its sister stick: four and half stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Tip: XIKAR PuroTemp Wireless Hygrometer System

14 Apr 2015

xikar-puro-temp-duo

Who among us hasn’t, at least at some point, worried about humidity and their cigars?

Some become obsessive about maintaining conditions, some opt to simply gauge it by feel and instinct, and many fall somewhere in the middle.

I confess I probably am closer to the first category, though more by necessity than temperament.

Florida’s extreme heat makes a cooled humidor almost a necessity. And extraordinarily high humidity levels also can play havoc with humidor conditions. I’m sure many of you in other parts of the country have dramatic weather conditions to contend with as well.

For me, this has meant lots of futzing through the years with ways and means to keep my cigars in shape. The latest: the Xikar PuroTemp Wireless Hygrometer System.

Here are the basics:

There’s a base unit, with stand, that displays the time and, from up to three remote sensors, temperature and relative humidity readings from inside the humidor. The base can also be programmed to beep a warning when temperatures or humidity levels rise or fall to selected points. A button allows you to select displays from each remote unit. The package comes with one sensor, and sensors also are sold individually.

Unlike most better thermometer/hygrometer units, there’s no way to adjust the readings on these. According to Xikar, the company opted instead to invest the time and attention necessary in the factory to get the temperature and humidity settings correct from the start.

It is important to recognize that the wireless technology isn’t WiFi. You can’t interface with a smartphone or computer, so there’s no way to automatically chart the readings over time.

I’ve been using and evaluating my PuroTemp system for about three months and, overall, I’ve found it to perform as advertised. The one caveat occurred about a week or so after I got it home. That was when the connections between the base and the remotes began to drop frequently and then fail to reconnect for a long time, if ever.

I contacted Xikar, and they had no qualms about honoring the lifetime warranty and had me ship the components to Kansas City, Mo. About a week later, I heard from Xikar’s Ken Dolinger, who’d supplied me with information earlier as I prepared this review.

“It was tested by our head engineer, he found that your sensors are working great but something was wrong with your base unit,” Dolinger emailed. “So I will be sending your sensors back and a new base unit.”

Since getting the new base, I’ve experienced no problems.

I tested the unit in numerous ways, including remotes side-by-side in my filled Avallo Cooled 1200 cabinet humidor; remotes individually and together in a sealed container with a 69% Boveda pack; and remotes together and individually in a desktop humidor without cigars and several 69% Boveda packs.

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Cigar Review: Viaje Summerfest 2013

9 Apr 2015

I recently came across a newly opened box of Viaje’s Summerfest 2013 at my local B&M and, naturally, couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try the nearly two-year-old blend.

Viaje-Summerfest-13Wise move. I didn’t smoke one when it was a new release–in fact, I don’t recall seeing it then–but I can say that, right now, it’s terrific.

With its long shaggy foot, bright red band, and reddish wrapper, Summerfest 2013 is a standout on the shelf and in the hand. For a Nicaraguan puro, it is lower on the strength and spice scales than you might expect. But it is absolutely full of flavor with thick, rich smoke.

My biggest initial concerns were groundless. The shaggy foot did not drop bits of ash and tobacco, and the draw, while a tad loose at the very start, was good throughout, as was the burn.

Summerfest began as an annual release in 2010, with a pause last year. (My colleague  wrote about the 2012 edition here.) A Summerfest 2015 is planned with a new blend and manufacturer, according to Viaje.

The 2013, released in June of that year, was a 5.25-inch fat robusto with a ring gauge of 54. The wrapper is a Corojo ’99. They were sold in boxes of 30 with 6,000 total sticks rolled. MSRP was about $9.50 each.

The Summerfest 2013s I’ve smoked were medium strength and remarkably smooth. Whether that’s from age or not I can’t say.

As the binder/filler burned first, the predominant flavors were wood and fairly mild pepper. When the burn line hit the wrapper, a bit of cinnamon and sweetness came to the fore. Most of the flavors were subtle and shifted quite a bit throughout the cigar, with coffee among the others that came and went.

Enjoying these smokes reminded me that when you visit a tobacconist you might want to occasionally ask, “What’s old?” instead of making the far more common inquiry, “What’s new?” I have found quite a few gems this way, and you can, too. I think of it as something of a bonus when the shop ages cigars for me.

If you happen to spot the Summerfest 2013 don’t miss the opportunity. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I know I wasn’t. I look forward to smoking this year’s incarnation and rate the Summerfest 2013 a solid four stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Punch Signature Robusto

31 Mar 2015

punch-signature-band

I don’t usually pay much attention to cigar peripherals. But some, like the extraordinarily detailed band on EPC’s La Historia, simply demand closer inspection. The Signature’s band (above) is one of those.

punch-signature-robustoAn eye-catching white background showcases old-style lettering reminiscent of a nineteenth century poster, raised printing and varied typefaces, sealed with an illustration of Punch and his dog. A standout on any tobacconist shelf.

The cigar itself is also quite a fine specimen. The wrapper is smooth, oily, and displays no large veins.

This addition to the Punch lineup is getting a big push from General Cigar. There are lots of ads, giveaways, and an interactive website.

The Signature cigars for this review were supplied by General, which sent me five Robustos. They have an MSRP of $6.79 and measure 5 inches long with a ring gauge of 52. There are three other sizes: Gigante (6 x 60, $7.39), Torpedo (5.75 x 52, $6.99), and Rothschild (4.5 x 50, $5.39).

Mindful of the smokers these days who want to know not only details of the blend but the story of the cigar as well, General provided considerable information in its press release. Blender Agustin Garcia says the Signature was inspired by the original Punch blend. Work began in 2012 when he “found a small batch of Ecuadoran tobacco they wanted to use” and teamed with a grower to produce enough of the Corojo wrapper leaf to ensure fulltime production.

The Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers are those used in General’s original Punch blend, with some having been “very aged” and others younger. “The aged leaves bring flavor and balance, and the newer leaves deliver more strength,” according to the press release. The binder is a proprietary Connecticut Habano.

Over the years, StogieGuys.com has had good things to say about many Punch cigars. This posting marks a dozen Punch reviews, and there have been numerous Quick Smokes and Gold Star mentions.

I have to say I didn’t find the Signature as enjoyable as some of the others, primarily due to a sharpness that scratched at the back of my throat for much of the cigar.

Throughout the stick, there was little change in the flavors, and what there was just wasn’t enough to hold my interest by the halfway point. Smoking farther down, though, did offer a reward: By the final third, the sharpness was finally almost gone and that was the most enjoyable part of the cigar.

Signature is certainly not a bad cigar. Construction, as you’d expect from General, is spot-on with an even burn, tight ash, and lots of smoke production. I did find the draw a bit loose and, after a straight cut on the first, used a punch or a V-cut for the others, which helped.

I would certainly recommend giving the Signature a try. For me, the Punch Signature Robusto rates three stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Crux Passport Half Corona

19 Mar 2015

crux-passport-scThis little cigar makes quite a first impression: tight pigtail cap, unfinished foot, oily wrapper, and warm barnyard aroma.crux-pass-sq

And when you begin smoking, it more than lives up to the pre-light promise. Whether you’re looking for a lunchtime smoke, a cold (or hot) weather shortie, or just a small vitola to fit your schedule, Crux’s Passport Half Corona delivers.

The dark Ecuadorian Habano wrapper covers Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos, and the combination results in a relatively strong, tasty cigar. In addition to rich tobacco flavors, the most prominent others I found were coffee, chocolate, and some pepper.

One of five sizes in the Passport line rolled by Plasencia, the Half Corona is 4 inches long with a ring gauge of 42. MSRP is $5.99, and it comes in 20-count boxes.

Other than a bit of a tight draw on one of the five samples sent to me by Crux, construction and performance were solid. As with most smaller cigars, it’s essential to smoke slowly and not draw too deeply so you’ll avoid overheating the tobacco.

When I reviewed the Passport Lancero, almost a year ago, Crux cigars could be found in only a handful of shops. Today, the site lists scores of retailers in more than 30 states that carry the brand.

I wondered how the small operation was being affected by its growing acceptance in the market and checked with Jeff Haugen, who is Crux brand and Tobacco Grove co-owner. “Yes, demand has been exceeding supply,” he emailed me. “We have adapted and changed our production schedule to keep up with demand. We will continue to do this as long as the quality stays consistent.”

The Passport Half Corona is well worth seeking out. I liked it even more than the Lancero and give it four stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Exactus Puro Ambar Short Robusto

16 Mar 2015

ExactusWho doesn’t love lighting up a new cigar about which you know virtually nothing and ending up a fan?

That’s exactly what happened to me with this Dominican puro. It hooked me from the beginning with jalapeño pepper, a bit reminiscent of the old Pepín-blended 601 Reds. After that, the flavors shifted to include some gentler spice, earth, and leather, even a bit of sweetness as the pepper reemerged more in the final third.

Exactus comes from Tabacalera El Artista, which was introduced to me by marketing manager Jonás Santana, who also sent me samples of the Puro Ambar line and its sibling, Puro Ambar Legacy. The company was founded in 1956 and now produces over 7 million cigars annually worldwide, including its own brands.

Blending work on Puro Ambar began in early 2013 and it was released at last year’s IPCPR Trade Show, Santana told me. It comes in two sizes: the Short Robusto (4.75 x 54) that I smoked, and a Short Coloso (5.5 x 60). Retail prices are about $7 and $8.

The Puro Ambar blend is an interesting one. The wrapper is called T13 and listed as an exclusive to Tabacalera El Arista. The binder is a wine-fermented Criollo ’98, with the filler comprising Criollo ’98 and Tabacalera El Arista’s Criollo 1900.

Santana sent me three samples. I smoked two and plan to pass the third along at my local B&M with the suggestion that they consider carrying the line. (The Exactus site has an interactive display of retailers who carry its cigars.)

Construction generally was fine, especially the draw. I did have to do a couple of relights on each stick, primarily, I think, because the thick wrapper was prone to going out when sitting, even briefly. The burn was, nonetheless, even and slow, producing lots of smoke.

If you like bold, spicy cigars, this is one to try. I rate this a strong four and a half stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Punch Rare Corojo El Diablo

9 Mar 2015

This cigar isn’t so much a smoke as a commitment.

Rare Corojo El DiabloWith a whopping 66-ring gauge and measuring 6.5 inches long, you’d be forgiven for worrying that El Diablo might become El Aburrido. Not a problem; it’s not a boring cigar, though it is certainly a long-lasting one.

The multi-nation tobacco blend leads to a complex, enjoyable smoke. The wrapper is Ecuadorian Sumatra, the binder a Connecticut broadleaf, and Honduran, Nicaraguan, and Dominican leaves comprise the filler.

Each year General Cigar tweaks the lineup for this annual release, and for 2014 it added two sizes: El Diablo for the regular cast and the Rare Lapiz figurado as a limited edition.

The price for El Diablo is $8.25, tops for the line. Online discounters advertise 20-count boxes for about $120. General provided two samples for this review.

Both performed excellently, though getting an even, thorough light takes considerable time and attention, as it often does with big-ring cigars. El Diablo, packed with tobacco and heavy in the hand, had a fine draw, even burn, and great smoke production.

The oily, reddish wrapper is smooth, displaying few veins and giving off a sweet pre-light aroma. The first flavors I got were the leather and earth I often associate with Honduran tobacco. They were joined by a light coffee taste and a bit of spice. Along the way, there are also hints of cocoa, nuts, and burned sugar.

I’d rate the strength as medium. Aging potential would seem to be good in the short term, though I wouldn’t be inclined to let them go more than a couple of years for fear too much might dissipate.

While I can’t claim to have smoked the Rare Corojo annually since its 2001 reincarnation, I have sampled them off and on through the years. The 2015 El Diablo strikes me as perhaps the best I can recall, smoother and more complex than in previous years.

Combined with its relatively low price, El Diablo’s easy to recommend. I know I plan to try other sizes as well. I rate El Diablo three and a half stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys